Apple Watch review: Beautiful form, frustrating function

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apple watch on wrist 2 Rob Schultz

Feeling another Apple Watch wearer’s heartbeat on your wrist is neat, but not something you’ll do very often.

Handoff for so much. I get that you can’t—and shouldn’t—do everything from the Apple Watch, and using Handoff to send some tasks, like answering email, back to the phone is absolutely the best way. But when Siri hands you off for something that you know you could do on the watch, it’s frustrating. If I ask Siri to play an unheard voicemail, she wants to hand me off to my iPhone, instead of launch the Phone app on the Apple Watch, which does have a button for playing that voicemail.

apple watch siri voicemail

To hear voicemail on the Apple Watch, I have to ask Siri to launch the Phone app instead.

Siri. Raising your arm should wake your watch (if it doesn’t, go to Settings on the watch and look for “Activate on wrist raise”), and then you can say, “Hey, Siri.” But I’ve found this a little hit and miss. Sometimes nothing happens. Sometimes Siri comes up and waits for me to ask something. Sometimes Siri pops up but immediately jumps to processing what I said, but I didn’t say anything, so I just have to wait until she realizes I didn’t say anything and asks me for a command. Pressing and holding the Digital Crown has been more reliable. (Some righties are even reorienting the watch’s display so the Digital Crown is on the bottom left instead of the top-right, just to make it easier to press with the right thumb.)

Bottom line: Who’s it for?

The Apple Watch isn’t an essential tool for most people. I can’t say that “no one needs this” after reading Molly Watt’s excellent piece about using the Apple Watch as someone with Usher’s Syndrome. She’s deaf and blind, and the haptic feedback and Digital Touch feature are already making a big difference to her.

apple watch crown onwrist Rob Schultz

The Digital Crown makes scrolling through lists in the Music app pleasantly tactile, just like the clickwheel on your first iPod.

It absolutely isn’t perfect, but it does what it set out to do, and I don’t necessarily agree that Apple is trying to make the watch do too much. Different people will find different killer uses for it, and those will change over time as you use it more and experiment with different apps. I could go on and on about how it’s the perfect way to navigate in the car when you’re listening to podcasts, but that’s a pretty specific use, and maybe only 10 percent of people who read this will care—and only 10 percent of those will care enough to spend $350 to solve that problem.

If you’re the experimental, early-adopter type, well, you already know if you want it or not. If you’re really on the fence, I would let the software mature and the hardware get faster before jumping in. It’s a lovely piece of hardware, and the Apple Watch Sport is a decent value since it does everything the more expensive versions do, but I think the responsiveness needs to improve, and the process for adjusting notifications needs to be overhauled, before it’s a mainstream must-have.

This story, "Apple Watch review: Beautiful form, frustrating function" was originally published by Macworld.

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At a Glance
  • The Apple Watch excels as a remote control and activity tracker, but it's slow and requires a Bluetooth connection to your iPhone, among other quirks. Still, it's hard not to admire a smartwatch this pretty.

    Pros

    • Haptic feedback and force touch gesture work well.
    • Supports Apple Pay even without an iPhone present.
    • Well-designed Activity and Workout apps provide good tracking and motivation.

    Cons

    • No way to hide built-in apps from the home screen.
    • Many apps and glances are slow to load.
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